Although they were granted all the necessary security clearances, a team of Israeli breast cancer researchers and advocates was denied entry to Egypt earlier this week.
The team had hoped to participate in breast cancer awareness and advocacy programs and workshops organized by the American-based Susan G. Komen For the Cure, but was informed just before departing that Egyptian Health Minister Hatem el-Gebaly had decided they would not be allowed to attend.
"The situation is very serious," said Yossi Levy, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry. "Everything was taken care of, [the team] had the necessary documentation. We still don't know why they weren't allowed in."
Levy also said his office was in discussion with Egypt about clarifying the decision.
In addition to the ministry's efforts, the Anti-Defamation League called on Susan G. Komen For the Cure on Tuesday to help ensure the Israelis' participation in the event.
"We respectfully urge the leadership of Susan G. Komen for the Cure to make clear to Egyptian authorities, including the breast cancer program's patron, First Lady of Egypt Suzanne Mubarak, that this exclusion of Israeli breast cancer researchers and activists is unacceptable," wrote ADL national director Abraham H. Foxman. "This decision must be immediately reversed to enable them to participate in these programs."
However, as of Wednesday afternoon, no progress had been made, and the team remained in Israel.
The week-long event began on Wednesday in Alexandria with an address from the US ambassador to Egypt, Margaret Scobey, among others. The rest of the week will feature a "Race for the Cure" at the Giza Pyramids, and various workshops on breast cancer support.
Dr. Muhammad Shaalan, chairman of the Breast Cancer Foundation of Egypt, praised the event.
"This remarkable, intensive, passionate, unprecedented cooperation between nations is a message of unity, peace and hope to win the battle against breast cancer," Shaalan said in a statement.
A representative from the Israel Cancer Association had not yet heard
of Egypt's actions on Wednesday afternoon.
This was the second time in less than a week that Egypt had prevented Israelis from entering the country for the purpose of attending a conference. Last Friday, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry refused to grant a visa to Yossi Gordon, the head of the Association of Contractors and Builders in Israel.